"We want to bring to your attention important information about the advertising of homeopathy which might affect you and which might mean that you need to make changes to your marketing materials."
... ... ...
"The ASA^’s current position, which was established through a number of ASA rulings, is that homeopaths may not currently make either direct or implied claims to treat medical conditions." [emphasis added, source: letter to homeopaths]This affects claims made on websites and social media (for example tweets and posts on Facebook). The ASA and CAP have also been working with the Society of Homeopaths to develop guidance for their members.
After 3 November the CAP Compliance Team will "carry out extensive monitoring spot checks" and where necessary they can apply a range of sanctions including, ultimately, referral to Trading Standards.
It will be interesting to see if any homeopaths will be prosecuted for making misleading health claims.
As far as I'm aware, in order to bring a prosecution (ie take it to the courts) Trading Standards need to be able to satisfy themselves that there's robust evidence of a problem (the evidential test) and that the evidence has been collected appropriately. Also that it's in the public interest to bring the prosecution forward (the public interest test). Presumably, even once a prosecution becomes imminent homeopaths can probably avoid further action by simply agreeing to stop making misleading claims. Let's hope they have the insight to recognise this!
My own experience (with a team of other skeptic bloggers) of getting Trading Standards involved has resulted in one company shutting down and another company owner being prosecuted and fined. In both cases the result could have been avoided by the company owners not belligerently standing their ground.
Skeptic bloggers have been waiting five years (since online marketing came under the ASA's remit in 2011 and the Nightingale Collaboration began the process of getting homeopathy more firmly on the ASA's radar) for stronger action on misleading homeopathy claims and we'll be watching this unfold from 3 November with a lot of interest.
Personally I'd like to see Trading Standards tackle the misleading claims of CEASE therapy first which claims to eliminate / cure autism using a form of #homeopathy. One homeopath (Teddington Homeopathy) has been listed on the ASA's non-compliant online advertisers list since August 2015.
Incidentally it's good to see that Jennifer Hautman of Islington Homeopathy Clinic appears to have made her site compliant with the ASA's requests. In March 2014 she was also listed on the non-compliant advertisers page but her site is no longer there so I assume she made the necessary changes. Here's an archive screenshot.
|Note this is an archive copy, Jennifer Hautman's Islington Homeopathy Clinic is no longer listed on the ASA's non-compliant advertisers list which suggests that she's since made her website compliant with the regulations.|
Islington Homeopathy Clinic: Non-compliant online advertiser http://t.co/5IMIkbonBD claim Gov & NHS accept homeopathy an effective treatment— ASA (@ASA_UK) March 19, 2014
In fact she took part in a workshop on how to market your practice while remaining ASA-compliant, so hooray!
Similarly Steve Scrutton Homeopathy (incidentally he does the media communications role for the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths) also appears to have made his website compliant as he's no longer listed on the non-compliant advertisers, but was in 2014. Here's an archive screenshot.
|This is an archive copy. Steve Scrutton's homeopathy website is no longer listed on the non-compliant advertisers page.|
*CAP = Committee of Advertising Practice (they develop the advertising regulations)
^ASA = Advertising Standards Authority (they uphold CAP's regulations)
The relevant announcements and files
- ASA's announcement: Advertising standards for homeopathy (29 Sep 2016) [web]
- Background from Nightingale Collaboration: Diluting misleading claims - ASA update (29 Sep 2016) [web]
- Letter to homeopaths from CAP (28 Sep 2016) - [PDF] 2 pages
- Homeopathy advertising regulation FAQ (2016) - [PDF] 2 pages
- AdviceOnline database - Health: homeopathy [web]
- Guidance for advertisers of homeopathic services (2011) - [PDF] 5 pages